Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: Jojo Moyes

The Last Letter From Your Lover
The One Plus One
The Girl You Left Behind
Me Before You

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo MoyesBook Cover of The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Read by Tracy in March 2014

Tracy recommends as a love story with a twist

The Blurb: It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband. Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

The Reality: I seem to have become a great fan of Jojo Moyes, having read The One Plus One, Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind and Natalie has previously read The Last Letter From Your Lover (her review is below). Of course when I first started reading Jojo Moyes, I had no idea she had previously written so many books. These are great books to sit down and enjoy - no strings attached.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is set between 1960 and today and tries to uncover a mystery surrounding a love letter that has been discovered in the local newspaper archives. Our modern day journalist is Ellie Haworth, who finds herself losing her grip on her job and life as she stumbles into an affair that soon starts to take over her life. At the end of her tether, she comes across a beautiful love letter and manages to get her editor to allow her to uncover the identify of the write and a story on the lost art of romantic letter writing. On the other side we find ourselves following Jessica Stirling who has awoken after a car accident and has no recollection of her earlier life. She is expected to settle back into her life as a society life, but she knows on the edge of her consciousness there is something more. She comes across a letter which is passionate and she realises that it isn't to or from her husband, who is the opposite of passionate. The narrative skips to before the accident and we are suddenly in the throes of an affair that is hamstrung by the morals of the time and the affair is doomed without both of them risking everything. As the story jumps back to Ellie, her life all of a sudden seems to be running in parallel, however, you know her passionate affair is one sided. What is interesting, as becoming typical with Jojo Moyes, is that her characters are flawed, they go against society expectations but you feel nothing but compassion for the main characters as their stories are unveiled in each letter that is uncovered. I do miss the art of letter writing and feel that the prevelance of emails certainly doesn't allow for more than a few sentences and rarely allows for the depth of emotion I feel when reading a letter.

Natalie's Review

Read by Natalie September 2011

Natalie recommends as an old fashioned moving love story

The Last Letter From Your Lover.

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The One Plus One by Jojo MoyesBook Cover of The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Read by Tracy in March 2014

Tracy recommends to make you appreciate your life and relationships

The Blurb: One single mum with two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it's hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn't. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family Jess's gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she'll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess's teenage stepson, can't fight the bullies alone. Sometimes Jess feels like they're sinking . . .

One handsome stranger Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it's like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love storyThe One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances.

The Reality: I have become a fan of Jojo Moyes and have enjoyed her previous books. Don't expect a literary offering that will change your life, however, you will instead find an author that writes books that give you hope. When you are at your lowest, she allows you to believe in a spark, something to let you realise change is possible and not in a toe curling overly sweet way, but a realistic look at how relationships should work. In The One Plus One we follow Jess. Jess doesn't want a relationship - she doesn't have time for the whole one plus one thing. Jess is busy - she has two jobs (barmaid and cleaner) whilst trying to bring up two children, her daughter and maths uber-whiz Tanzie and her stepson, Goth like Nicky. They live hand to mouth, as soon as Jess gets one step ahead; she is soon brought back to reality. In addition, her children are bullied and there is nothing she can do, she can't move, she can't offer anything more. Her husband, and father to both children, has decamped to his mother's house, to deal with stress! Of course that means he can't work. Jess is in a quandary, she is unable to help her children reach their potential, everything has a cost and she has no money or even any means to make extra money. Until Ed Nicholls enter her life. As with all Jojo Moyes books, nobody is fundamentally evil, they just have their flaws, like we all do. In this story Jess finally takes the easy path when it is offered, but as we learn, it is a case of short-term gain for long-term misery. Ed has his own problems; he is a computer software developer and has dug himself into the proverbial hole when he tries to escape a relationship by giving some information that leads to insider trading charges. So he to is at the end of his tether, and it is almost inevitable that Jess and Ed find themselves on a road trip to Scotland with the kids and dog. Of course Ed has the opposite problem as Jess and has been lucky enough to build up a financial cushion, so that when he finds himself ousted from his own company, he is not exactly scratching around for pennies. What is interesting is that the book doesn't preach about the unfairness of society, the horrible conditions in some housing estates, family disintegration and how difficult it is to make ends meet when you try to earn an income instead of relying on the welfare system. I know I said all the characters are fundamentally good, that doesn't hold true for Jess's husband, he has to be the biggest coward going. How hard is it to pick up the phone, instead of building a life entirely on lies. He could have easily alleviated some of the pressure on Jess instead of being selfish and thinking of himself. Then again his mother is a right prize as well. Of course those two characters are well and truly made up for with the gorgeous characters of Nicky and Tanzie. You want them both to find their way in life and I cried when things didn't go their way. After all, the trip to Scotland is for Tanzie, she must win a Maths Olympiad, as the prize money is equivalent to the final 10% needed for her to attend a private school after being given a scholarship for 90%. I am sure you could guess the ending before it happens, but sometimes that isn't such a bad thing. I was after a book that I could ready and enjoy even though I cried and cried in some parts.

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The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo MoyesBook Cover of The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Read by Tracy in March 2013

Tracy recommends a love story with a twist.

After reading and loving Jojo Moyes Me Before You. I eagerly picked up The Girl You Left Behind, waiting to be disappointed as so often happens, but I wasn't, it was a totally different book and had me sobbing and wishing for some happiness to the main characters. I am not a romance book reader usually and tend to shy away from them, but this managed to avoid the soppiness that seems prevalent amongst this genre. The book starts in 1916 inside a small-town hotel, Le Coq Rouge, run by Sophie Lefevre and her family. Their French village of St Peronne is under German occupation where they are slowly being starved and mentally downtrodden with the villagers gradually turning on each other if they even get a whiff of possible favoritism between the inhabitants and the Germans. They still manage small victories though with the village burying their family treasurers and the raising of a piglet that is against the new rules. Life follows a fairly slow pace with the Kommandant ensuring they jump to his beat with the occasional violence. However, when a new Kommandant arrives things change rapidly.

After the men folk have gone to war, Sophie, her sister and brother and their respective children run the local bar and after the Kommandant becomes obsessed with a painting (a portrait of a young Sophie by her husband Edouard, named The Girl You Left Behind). He soon dictates that the hotel must provide meals to all the officers. Suddenly the Lefevre family find themselves at the mercy of the local gossip. Sophie sees the opportunity as a way to find her husband who she has not heard from for a long time and uses the Kommandants’ love of art to try and convince him to help.

The second part of the book finds us in London, 90 years later. Liv Halston is a 30-year-old copywriter and widow, her husband having died several years earlier, not before he gave her a painting (yep the same painting in the first part of the story). Liv finds herself at the mercy of her friends who want to set her up, with some particularly awful men, so much so she finds herself hiding away. Her husband had been an architect on a stella career trajectory and she is now housed in a spectacular apartment that is the envy of so many, however, she may be property rich, but she is extremely cash poor struggling to make ends meet. After one such disastrous dinner, Liv finds herself aided and abetted by a goth waitress called Mo, and they soon become friends and Mo moves in with Liv. Mo is down to earth and understands with Liv is going through, but tries to drag her into the here and now and not live in the past. Enter Paul McCafferty, a former NYPD cop, works for a company that locates stolen works of art during the war eras. Recently divorced, he is struggling with supporting his son and also trying to come to terms with the people he meets. He tracks down artwork only to find as soon as it is returned to the original owners; they really just want the money and are not interested in the art itself. Just as Liv feels she may be able to move on with Paul, the Lefevre family engages Paul's company to recover the painting. He soon realises that Liv is emotionally connected to the painting and she won't give it up without a fight. Eventually it turns into a high profile court case, which polarises the country. Although we all believe that stolen works of art should be returned to where is belonged, this case rests on the fact, was the painting actually stolen. There are some interesting twists and turns that sees Liv about to declare bankruptcy and she only continues on her quest to find out what really happened to Sophie and the story is tragic.

Moyes shows skill in keeping the two story lines going at the perfect pace. Although there is huge sadness in the book (not in the same vein as The Road), there is also some very funny bits (Liv going out and getting drunk at a gay bar). It is interesting to read a story where the characters are dedicated to their point of view above all else.

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Me Before You by Jojo MoyesBook Cover of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Read by Tracy in February 2013

Tracy recommends a love story with a fantastic ending.

What an opening chapter - you don't really understand what is happening, but you know it is life changing, not least for the main character of Will Traynor. We are then whisked away on another completely different tangent. The second chapter follows Lou Clark and the news that her beloved employment at The Buttered Bun tea shop is about to come to an end. She also realises that she has limited skills for any work at the job centre. She loved her job and the daily routine of its customers. She also loves her boyfriend Patrick, although I am not sure why, as he seems like a total git. Anyway her family are reliant on her income, so she must suck it up and find another job, no matter what. We are taken into the demeaning life of someone on the dole attempting to find a job, when there is nothing out there they are skilled to do, and even being told that unless she accepts a job, any job, she will now be entitled to qualifying for the meagre allowance. Lou is desperate for work, she misses her old job terribly and is in fire about money and her future. Eventually the job centre comes up with a job as a care assistant, without the usual carer functions, so she heads off for an interview with the indomitable Camilla Traynor. She is given the six month contract, which has an income more than she would ever hope of earning. Unfortunately she must care of Will Traynor who, after an accident, which is graphically described in Chapter One. Will is unable to accept his new life where he is a quadriplegic living a life abhorrent to himself and finds himself without a desire to live. So when Lou arrives in his life, turning it upside down, he won't change his mind. Lou uncovers a plan between Will and his mother and decides to change his life and bring back that desire to live.

The village that the story is set in, is relatively typical to a lot in England, the main employer is the National Trust castle and which for Lou hides a horrific teenage incident which, she isn't fully aware of, has changed her life forever, and we see her settling into a life of boring anonymity. In her mid-twenties she is still living at home with no aspirations or desire to leave this insular lifestyle. So she is the opposite of Will. Will in his life before the accident, lived everything to the max - he travelled everywhere and worked at a frantic pace. After the initial getting to understand each other. They both see each other as a charity case. Will is desperate to Lou to see the world, but Lou wants Will to tell her where to go and what to do! She plots a series of adventures to make Will realise there is a life after the accident, but instead finds herself realising how difficult it is for him to melt into the crowd.

This novel could so easily have been a weepy love story, but it isn't. Moyes doesn't hide the difficulties Will faces being unable to do anything for himself and his constant pain and frustration he must live under, everything in his life must be orchestrated just to keep him alive. This is something he isn't necessarily convinced of. Lou and Will find a relationship of sorts, but is it enough? I won't spoil the ending, but it was the right ending. This novel had me sobbing at the end, there is no happy ending. In fact it made me thankful that in the end, Will was able to address his situation in a loving family atmosphere, something that is impossible for so many.

Me Before You was voted into the Readers' Choice Top 15 Books for 2013 at BookPage.

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